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Tag Archives: soulcycle

4deeeb7cd680a173601b1846f849ab34a couple of weeks ago, i heard a valuable piece of advice during spin class. inside a dark, candlelit room, surrounded by the whirring of 60 bikes and the distinct smell of lemon-tinted sweat, the following words were spoken:

“treat yourself the way you treat your best friend.”

let’s let that sink in for a moment, shall we? treat yourself the way you treat your best friend. you know how you give your best friend pardons when they do something stupid, or inconsiderate, or how you don’t judge them when they make a mistake, how you tell them, over and over again, that everything will be okay. how you reassure them in moments of fear that they are exactly where they need to be, that it will all work out, that this moment is simply preparing them for something greater. how you listen to them as they reveal their fears and their worries, and how you never, not once, tell them that any of those thoughts are not valid.

what if you treated yourself the same way?

what if, the next time you made a mistake, or did something stupid, or said something inconsiderate, you just let.it.go?

i mean, hot damn, imagine the possibilities, right? such a simple statement, but such an insanely empowering nugget of advice. emily t. (new yorkers, if you like spin, get yourself to soulcycle and take em’s class, she’s the shit) is one of my favorite instructors at soul for this very reason: she dispenses these little magical nuggets of inspiration each and every class. and i tell you, cheesy or not, there’s something incredibly powerful about hearing exactly what you need to hear while you’re drenched in sweat, pushing your body to its limits, and in a blissed out state of zen.

i have a long history with doing the exact opposite of letting it go. i will ruminate for hours, then ruminate some more, over the teeniest, tiniest things – things that the average person would have let go within .5 seconds. i’m quick to blame myself, to feel like i’ve failed (but we all feel that way sometimes, right?), to tell myself that whatever i’ve gone is just plain not good enough.

but what if i didn’t do that? because let’s be real, i’d never, EVER, treat my best friend that way. i’d never tell her what she’d done wasn’t good enough, or that i was disappointed in her because she’d failed, or even that she’d failed at all! NEVER.

so what if i applied the wisdom and the benefit of the doubt that i give my closest friends to my own heart? what if i stopped blaming myself for being single? what if i stopped categorizing every single flaw on my body? what if i stopped degrading myself for not being where i want to be with my career?

what if, even if just for a day, i just let myself be? and instead, i practiced loving myself. being proud of myself. telling myself i’d done a good job when i had. imagine how much more likable we’d all be if we just loved ourselves a little bit more.

some of the people i admire and envy most in the world are those who seem to have been born with this utter sense of self, a knowledge that they are good, if not great, that they will weather the storms life throws at them and come out the other side. they walk with grace, they hold their head high, they command the room not because they like attention but because they possess the confidence that so many of us don’t.

i don’t think i’ll ever be one of those people – i’m too damn sensitive and analytical – but i do think i could practice being just a little bit kinder to myself, and reminding myself that for the most part, i’m doing the best i can.

we all are.

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yesterday, i read this incredible, moving, maddening, saddening piece of work on xojane. it made me feel a giant complex ball o’ feelings, an amalgamation of hurt and shame and pride and anger that reminded me of my favorite quote from jeffrey eugenides. in particular, one section stood out:

Before I got on the plane, my best friend offered me a bag of potato chips to eat on the plane, but I denied myself that. I said, “People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public,” and it was one of the truest things I’ve ever said.

how often have i uttered that same exact sentence in my head? how often have i not eaten something i wanted because i was afraid of what people would think? or, on the contrary, how often have i tried to squelch my feelings of shame and eat exactly what i wanted, only to feel overwhelmed by thoughts of, am i being judged for eating this?

i’ve written on here before about my struggles with my weight. i’ve talked about my new year’s resolutions, which include learning to love my body. i’ve written about the f word. i’ve written about finding acceptance on a hike in nicaragua. i’ll probably continue to write about my struggles for the rest of my life, because lord knows i’m never going to be a size 2, or probably, even a size 6. but i’d like to someday get past the shame of that fact, to feel as though i can consume a bag of potato chips, or a bar of chocolate, or a plate of fries, without imagining that i’m being judged for doing so.

i know the feeling the author speaks of above. i understand what it’s like to not sit down on the subway because you’re worried you’ll take up too many seats. to not opt for certain outfits, or bright colors, or tight clothes, because you feel you haven’t earned the right to do so. i know what it’s like to want more than anything for your body to be invisible, to be whisper thin, to disappear inside itself, to just, for one single moment in your life, live without being conscious of how your body takes up space in the world.

i’ve been going to bar method for over three years now; this summer, i’ll mark a year of thrice-weekly soulcycle classes. i know, somewhere in my heart, that the bar method soho community loves me for who i am and doesn’t think, “fat girl” when i walk through the door. but i do. deep down, i still think it almost every class i take. i look at my legs and my waist and my chest in the mirror, and i look at my arms when we raise them above for balance, and i survey those body parts next to the rest of the pin thin women in class and i judge myself, and the little voice in my head tells me that all those women around me are doing just the same. they’re looking at me, up on my tiptoes, and thinking, what is she doing here? she’s been coming for 3 years and she still looks like this? she must eat like a pig. she clearly has no self-control. you’d think she’d have lost more weight given that she’s here 5 days a week.

you would think that, wouldn’t you? i would. i wish i had. but i haven’t, mostly because i refuse to deny myself the things i truly love. contrary to popular belief, most overweight people DON’T sit on their couches stuffing their faces 24/7. many of us actually eat quite a healthy diet, one filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and peppered with quite a bit of exercise. some of us are genetically pre-disposed to have a larger ribcage. some of us won’t ever have a thigh gap, no matter how much we want it.

when i was younger, i used to wish i had the self control to starve myself. i would scold myself for my lack of discipline, my inability to do what it took to be thin.

i’ve done enough work on myself (the inside, at least) to know that’s not a healthy attitude. but i’d be lying if i told you i don’t feel shame every time i step into a soulcycle studio. i’d be kidding myself if i said i haven’t tried many of the fitness classes i’d like to try for fear that i’m too fat to try them.

most of the women (and men) who ride at soulcycle have bodies that amaze me. they have not an ounce of fat on them, their muscles are carved into their skin like ancient stone statues. their sweat trickles down the cuts in their abs, the rock solid dips in their shoulders practically vibrate with strength. they appear to be the sorts of people who’ve never once had to worry about their weight. they flaunt their thinness in sports bras and tight yoga pants (not that i blame them; i’d do the same if i could). and i look at them, and all i can think is, are they looking at me and wondering what the hell i’m doing here? when i check in at the front desk, i wonder if they think i won’t make it through class. when i clip into my bike, i wonder if the person behind me sighs and thinks, ugh, great, the fat girl is in front of me.

i try hard, so hard, not to think like this. but it’s been ingrained in my mind that because i am greater than, i am lesser than. my weight isn’t just the ball and chain i wear around my ankles, dragging behind me with every step i take, it’s a scarlet letter on my ample chest, telling the world i’m no good. i’m lazy. i eat too much. i don’t exercise. i don’t deserve that bag of potato chips. i don’t deserve to ride in a class of athletes when i’m not one myself.

when i catch myself feeling pretty, feeling good, that feeling is often quickly squashed by my inner hatred, my inner shame. i can’t possibly look pretty, can’t possibly feel good – not if i’m still fat.

the only thing greater than my shame over my weight is my shame that i AM so ashamed of myself. i don’t want to live like this. i don’t want to think like this. i don’t want to be like this. i am far from perfect, but i am also far from a failure, inside and out. sometimes, when my favorite soulcycle instructor isabel says things like, “be proud of where you are right now, how strong you are,” i have a brief moment where i truly feel strong, and truly feel proud of my body and what it can do. but all too quickly, i let myself get bogged down by my insecurities, and my shame, and that feeling of pride dissipates before i can catch it and bottle it up for future use.

i want, so badly, to accept myself for who i am. i know, deep down, that no one will accept me until i can accept myself. i’m making progress, showing up to class each day even though i feel so decidedly out of place, and working through my feelings by writing about them. i’m making progress by buying clothes at lululemon even though their founder says fat women shouldn’t shop there. i’m making progress by trying new things, and meeting new people, and for the most part, wearing the things i want. i’m making progress by having small moments where i allow myself to feel pretty, to feel wanted, to feel worthy of someone’s attention.

because at the end of the day, i won’t be young forever, and even if i’m pretty now, lord knows i won’t be when i’m old and crotchety and bitching at my cats on my front porch at the ripe old age of 85. it’s not just my body that counts. it’s that i can love with all of my heart, and take care of the people who mean the world to me; that i can bake a mean chocolate chip cookie and can sing karaoke with the best of ’em.

and you know what? when i let that side of myself take center stage, and i push that judgmental little voice out of my head, things are okay. and if i want the potato chips, i’m going to eat the damn potato chips. IN PUBLIC.

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guys, i’m totally having a champagne problem. as in, a problem that’s so ridiculous, and so unworthy of attention, that i can’t believe i’m even writing a blog post about it. except that’s sort of my thing: i write about my problems. and my heartache, and my joy, and just about anything else i can think to write about. writing about my life has always been how i process it (ALL THE FEELINGS, ALL OF THE TIME), and lately, i need to process this issue: i am too damn busy. does anyone else feel like the quote above? my brain is just constantly churning with ‘to do’s’ and ‘don’t forget’s’ and all these other silly tiny little things that swim around in my imagination like tiny little amoebas.

i am a creature of habit to a fault, and ever so slightly OCD, which means that once i get in my head that i’m going to do something, i have.to.do.it. as in, if i wake up on a monday morning and tell myself that i’ll get two workouts in, and stay late at work, and wash my sheets and make myself a healthy dinner and catch up on at least one hour of TV, i have to do it all. even when there aren’t really enough hours in the day to do it all. and that’s just the things i do for myself, unrelated to any sort of social life.

see, that ridiculous list up there? that was my yesterday. and the average person would say to themself, self, i don’t think you have time for all those things. so maybe just one workout, or perhaps you order sushi instead of cooking red thai curry from scratch. or, self, the laundry can wait till another night. and all of those responses would be totally normal, and totally practical. but my brain doesn’t work like that. instead, it opens tab after tab after tab, trying to keep track of all the things it wants to do in any given day, and when those things don’t happen, or even seem to appear as though they might not happen, my stress levels go into overdrive.

would the world end if i didn’t make it to bar method? of course not. but in my head, not making it to bar method means destroying all the progress i’ve made in the past 3 years. would it matter if i didn’t get to wash my sheets after a somewhat debaucherous weekend? probably not. but in my head, the sheets are dirty, and contaminated, and stinky and must be washed immediately.

these thoughts are, i know, not the thoughts of a rational person. but a rational person i am not, especially to those who know me well. actually, scratch that: when it comes to advising others, i’m actually quite rational. but in my own head? shit is cray up in there!

riding a few times a week at soulcycle has worked wonders to help me clear the tabs in my brain. it’s as though with every sprint i complete, or every hill i climb, i’m closing a tab. single and never getting married? not going to worry about it today. x that one out. didn’t get to clean the apartment and OMG there’s no time and OMG it’s so dirty? CLICK. that can be done tomorrow. am i doing okay at my new job? do they regret hiring me? tab begone. there’s no way to know what they’re thinking, so it’s a waste of my time to hypothesize.

i’m sure if you’ve read this far down, you’re thinking, geez, sarah is a really crazy person. and i kind of am. thankfully, i’m a few other things besides crazy, and i’m not as crazy as the guy who called me a bitch in the subway yesterday for not donating a dollar to his “get more alcohol” fund.

here’s what i’ve learned about closing the tabs: it’s important to know what helps me shut that shit down. i have a tendency to get really wrapped up in my mind, in my worries, in my anxiety of what comes next, or what i haven’t done well enough or fast enough. and over the past few years (and even moreso over the past few months since i’ve started riding at soul), i’ve learned to be cognizant of when i’ve got too many tabs open. of when my brain is on overdrive. and most importantly, of how to close some tabs when things are getting a little like a mosh pit in the region above my eyebrows.

here’s how i calm myself down:

1) make a list. check things off. even things that you’ve done already. it will make you feel accomplished. (type A folks, can i get a hell yeah?) putting everything on paper means taking it out of my head. once it’s written down, i can close those tabs, and move on with my life.

2) take a bath. i used to HATE baths. i thought they were for old ladies, and more importantly, people who didn’t appreciate the importance of truly being clean (who wants to sit in their own dirty water?). as it turns out, they’re for people who want to close some tabs and let it go. (note: as an aforementioned slightly OCD person, i always do my actual showering after my soak)

3) sweat it out. again, i’m going to give a big shoutout to soulcycle here, for helping me get grounded and #leavethedramaonthebike. last night, instead of going to get a drink with coworkers, i went to bar method. and i debated literally until the very last second which thing i should do: be social, and friendly, and a good coworker, or get the workout i knew i’d feel unfulfilled without in. i went with the latter, and by the time i’d left the studio, i felt lighter.

4) make something. for me, it’s usually a baked good – something about turning on my kitchen aid really gets me in zen mode (weird, i know). it’s not even about eating the sweets. it’s about the methodical measuring and mixing; it takes my mind off everything else.

5) when all else fails, call mom. oh my god, do i dread the day when i’m officially too old to call my mother and vent. seriously, when is that cut off? have i passed it already? does it happen when i become a mom myself? my mother is the only person who will listen to my ridiculous ranting and still love me at the end of the day. god bless her.

there you have it. 5 ways i close the tabs and calm myself down. i’d love to know: what do you do when life feels overwhelming and your brain is on overdrive?

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over the past few years, i’ve become somewhat of a workout nut. i’ve talked a bunch about my love for bar method, and more recently, my obsession with soulcycle (the only thing that’s helped me lose weight pretty much ever), but i haven’t given an update on my workout sitch in quite some time. during my first few years in new york, i was an evening gym-goer, but once i got into the ad industry, i quickly realized that the nights of leaving at 5pm were O-V-E-R, and that if i wanted to ensure i got a workout in, i had to do so before i went into the office.

three plus years later, i’m totally an early morning convert. on the days i wake up groggy and cancel bar method, i regret it. the mornings i don’t work out turn into days in which i simply don’t feel as good. i’m less awake, less motivated, less happy…there’s something about starting the day with your endorphins pumping (something i experienced today with an 8am soulcycle class) that just makes life easier. i’ve learned that i don’t have as good of an experience at bar method if i go to an evening class. getting zen before work, and letting the day’s worries evaporate before i even walk out of the studio, makes a huge difference in my day to day stress level.

with soul, i love a good morning class to get pumped up for the day, but i also love riding out my stress in the evenings. soulcycle is so high energy that you can’t help but leave invigorated, even if you walk into the studio tired. i’ve fallen into a bit of a rhythm with soul and bar (something i was struggling with when i first started riding): mondays, i do AM bar and PM soul. this means i start out off my week zen and end my mondays (which are always rough, in my opinion) feeling relaxed and ready to take on the week ahead. tuesdays, i’m AM bar (no soul). wednesdays, i’m AM soul (no bar). thursdays, i’m AM bar (no soul), and fridays, i’m AM bar and evening soul. that equals out to four days of bar method and 3 soul classes a week – then i sometimes add an extra bar or soul class in on the weekends.

i’ve been lucky to make friends at bar method, and to bring friends to soulcycle, which means that i’m often able to turn my workouts into a social excursion as well. at this point, i’m past enjoying working out (something that was a BIG hurdle for me when i initially started classes at bar method) – i seriously look forward to my classes, especially because half the time i know i’ll be burning calories alongside friends. last saturday, my friend lisa and i (who i met at bar method) took a 10:30 AM class, grabbed some breakfast, then spent the afternoon shopping in soho. i literally couldn’t have asked for a more perfect saturday. again, there’s something about starting your day with a workout that just feels amazing – as the quote above says, it makes me feel alive. i especially feel this way at soulcycle, when i’m mid sprint and want to give up, and–thanks to instructor motivation–manage to push through, taking my body to places i thought i couldn’t go. there’s really no better way to feel alive than to challenge yourself and come out on the other side.

in short, i feel more alive than i’ve felt in a while, and perhaps more importantly, more balanced and connected with my body than i’ve been in a long time, maybe ever. and that makes the above worth every penny, and every minute of my time.

the one downside of all those morning classes? it means i carry my life around with me pretty much 24/7. my ‘work bag’ is enormous, and also carries either my outfit for the day or my workout clothes, plus my makeup, hairbrush, clarisonic, facewash, bar method socks, spin shoes…the list goes on and on. this generally means there’s no room for my lunch (which i try to make myself the night before), so i carry that in a mini lululemon bag (why hasn’t someone designed a cute yet adult lunchbox yet?). Image

WHAT’S IN MY GYM BAG

for shits and giggles, i thought it might be fun to put together my workout essentials: the things i can’t get through bar method/soulcycle without. my standard outfit includes lululemon wunderunder leggings (my absolute fave, they’re worth every penny because they last forever), a lulu racerback tank, an old navy sports bra (inexpensive at just 16.50 a pop, and they’re often on sale!), and bar method grippy socks. if i’m at soul, i swap the bar socks for regular socks, and add my shimano spin shoes (also an investment, but again worth every penny, they paid for themselves after a few months of spin classes – soul charges you $3/class to rent shoes that someone else’s sweaty feet have been in). i also carry around all natural spray deodorant, blotting papers for the times i can’t shower, and of course, my water bottle, which i legitimately could not live without. it’s pretty much an extension of my arm – which is why i’m contemplating splurging on this adorable heart BKR bottle (glass, BPA free!) that i actually gave my friend kim for christmas (but really want for myself!).

my one other must-have is something i actually haven’t tried yet – no sweat detergent. it was recommended to me by someone at soul this morning; she swears by it to get that sweaty smell out of your workout clothing. i hate to admit it, but even with regular washing, my soul clothes are beginning to smell a bit musty. i don’t think it’s anything anyone else would notice, but i certainly notice them when i put them on. i’ve tried adding a cup of vinegar to my wash (something i read online), but that didn’t quite kill it. my new soul source tells me the no sweat detergent is the real deal, and makes a big difference in how her clothes smell – especially when you can’t wash them right away (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much always the case…my sweaty clothes sit in my hamper for a few days before they make it into the washing machine. gross, i know). i have high hopes that no sweat is going to be a real lifesaver when it arrives on my doorstep!

and that, folks, is my healthy living roundup. what i’m doing, when i’m doing it, and what i’m wearing when i do so. end scene.